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Featured January 2020 Earthquake

Private-sector aid continues to flow for P.R.’s earthquake victims

The number of private sector businesses pitching in to deliver aid and support to the victims of this week’s strong earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks continues to increase, with help coming in from Puerto Rico and abroad.

One of the companies is Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, which last month announced plans to open its first restaurants in Plaza Las Américas. The eatery has joined the Hispanic Federation’s fundraising efforts through a campaign to support relief efforts.

The Philadelphia-based restaurant group will provide patrons with the opportunity to support earthquake relief efforts by “rounding up” their purchases to the nearest dollar (or more) when using a credit or debit card.

Every day through Feb. 1, the restaurant will include an extra line at the bottom of their guests’ lunch, brunch and dinner checks where patrons can donate to the Hispanic Federation. And on Sundays during the campaign, Cuba Libre will match guests’ donations to the charity.  The donation drive will take place at all four Cuba Libre locations in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Orlando and Washington D.C.

“When we heard about the earthquake, we realized that we had to do something to support the people of Puerto Rico,” said Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar Founder Barry Gutin.

“The U.S. territory is near and dear to our hearts, as we have many employees with family members there and just recently, we announced plans to open a new location in San Juan. Groundbreaking for the 10,000 square-foot restaurant is slated for next month at Plaza Las Américas.”

Cuba Libre San Juan will be the sixth location for the brand.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers opened a collections center for essential items to help earthquake victims. The goods will be delivered Saturday, through caravan that will tour the towns of Guayanilla, Yauco, and Guánica, among others, company officials said.

“We’re living in times in which uncertainty prevails throughout Puerto Rico and we need to be united. For this reason, Coca-Cola, along with other business and media partners, is calling for citizen solidarity to contribute essential items,” said Alberto de la Cruz, president of Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers & CC1 Companies and manager of this initiative.

“We call on people and companies to continue joining this initiative to help those affected in the Southern area,” de la Cruz added.
Donations may be dropped off at the Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers headquarters in the Parque Industrial de Minillas in Bayamón.

Items that are being collected include: non-perishable food, adult diapers in all sizes, adult pads, personal hygiene products, wet wipes, sanitizers and first aid items. Econo, Oriental Bank, Walmart, Mr. Special, Selectos, SBS and Wapa are part of the initiative.

Another company joining the list of supporters is Suiza Dairy, which delivered perishable, non-perishable food and helped set up tents for victims in areas including the towns of Guayanilla, Guánica and Yauco. This initiative was coordinated through the municipalities, to send aid to the neediest areas, company officials said.

On Wednesday, two trucks and several buses were sent to help some 3,000 people in the different sectors, where Suiza’s administrative, sales and operations staff delivered the products.

As for communications, Liberty Puerto Rico and Liberty Foundation, the company’s corporate social responsibility arm, will take a wireless connection and supplies to residents in earthquake-struck communities that lack access to the internet.

“We have seen a great need to take this service to shelters and residents living in the municipalities that were affected the most by the earthquakes,” said Naji Khoury, president of both entities.

“As a communications services provider and as part of our corporate responsibility program, we want to give these communities a wireless connection so they can do basic things such as contact their families, send e-mails, entertain themselves and look for information during the recovery period,” he said.

The hotspots will be active 24 hours a day starting today at the following shelters: the Tito Rodríguez Coliseum in Guánica, the Luis A. “Pegui” Mercado Toro Municipal Stadium in Guayanilla, and the Cancha Bajo Techo Juan E. Lluch in Lajas.

Later on, Liberty will install another hotspot at an undisclosed location in Sabana Grande. These hotspots will be on while the shelters are operational and in coordination with the municipality, the company said.

People will have access to a high-speed Wi-Fi connection so they can use their own electronic devices. In addition, Liberty Foundation will deliver snacks, water and juices to the Lajas and Guánica shelters today and the Guayanilla shelter on Saturday.

“This effort will reach about 1,000 people in these communities. We want to help the largest possible amount of people who were affected by this and provide them with not just essential services and supplies, but we also want them to know that they will have the support they need at this time,” said Yadira Valdivia, executive director of Liberty Foundation.

Valdivia added that in the next few days, the foundation will visit these shelters and affected communities again to hand out backpacks filled with basic items, many of which will be donated by Liberty Puerto Rico employees. They will also work with community organizations that are currently providing aid in the Southern and Southwestern regions of the island.

Regarding the reestablishment of Liberty’s services, Khoury said the company’s customers have been getting their services back as power is restored throughout the island.

Currently, about 70% of Liberty’s customers in the metropolitan area and most of the company’s customer base in Eastern Puerto Rico already have access to their Internet services. The executive also said that stores located in Ponce, Guayama, Caguas and Aguadilla are still operating on a partial basis.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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